Former Australian player Craig Fitzgibbon has rejoined the Kangaroos ranks after being added to Tim Sheens’ coaching staff.
Fitzgibbon, who played 18 Tests for Australia, will join David Furner as Sheens’ assistant coach for the one-off Test match against New Zealand on May 2. He replaces Sheens’ long-term trainer Brian Hyder, who stood down following the Kangaroos’ World Cup triumph last year.
Fitzgibbon received a phone call from Kangaroos’ performance manager Gareth Holmes asking if he wanted to join the group.
“It was a pretty quick discussion with [Roosters coach] Trent Robinson and my family to get the time allowance but it wasn’t much of a decision to make,” Fitzgibbon said. “I’m pretty excited. It’ll be great to be among the staff in any capacity.
“I’ve only had one brief chat with Tim. I’ll try and catch up with him at some point leading up to the Test match. Any opportunity to get involved in a rep set-up, you’re lucky. I am really thankful I’ve got the opportunity to spend some time with coaches like Sheens and Furner, and I’ll be trying to soak in and learn as much information as possible.
“Any time I got to wear the green and gold, it was always an emotional moment.”
Fitzgibbon’s addition is the only change to the support staff, who helped guide Australia to victory against New Zealand in the World Cup final. The Roosters defensive coach will be the on-field message provider for Sheens to the players.
The appointment means Fitzgibbon has had to relinquish his assistant coaching duties of Country Origin, a role he filled last year.
“It was a bit of a shame,” Fitzgibbon said. “I had to ring Trent Barrett and tell him, he was cool and wished me all the best. I had a great week with the Country boys last year so I am a little disappointed but you can’t pass up this opportunity.”
The former Rooster, and Steelers and Dragons back-rower, continues to add to his coaching credentials with the hope of eventually leading an NRL side. Although his coaching career is still in its infancy, Fitzgibbon, 36, said his long-term goal would be to become a head coach.
“Any experience you can gather outside your club environment is great,” he said. “You have to have your own ideas as a coach but it’s good to watch other people work. Not only that, it’ll be great to be surrounded by high-quality players.
“I like talking to ex-coaches and players, and talking footy. I think it’s important for me not to think too far ahead as a coach. I’m really enjoying my role at the Roosters and we’ve got a great coaching environment.
“I still feel like it’ll be a way off before I would consider myself to be ready to be a head coach. I don’t want to make the mistake of thinking about it too early and get impatient and jump in. My role chews up enough time and energy as it is, so I don’t want to be thinking about anything else.
“I love coaching, it’s my job and you want to progress, and down the track I would consider it.”
Sheens is set to pick a largely unchanged squad for the game against the Kiwis.Vice-captain Paul Gallen (knee injury) is the only one struggling to be fit.